The SysCom study on long-term farming systems is being supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC).
Photo: ©FiBL

Organic agriculture is a sustainable alternative for developing economies

Results from long-term comparative farming systems research of the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL and its partners in Kenya, India, and Bolivia reveal that profitability and productivity of organic agriculture can equal that of other production systems. The report shows that well-managed organic farming systems can increase soil fertility, reduce pesticide residues and enhance biodiversity.

The Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL launched its report entitled “What is the contribution of organic agriculture to sustainable development? A synthesis of twelve years (2007-2019) of the long-term farming systems comparisons in the tropics (SysCom)” at the External Cooperation InfoPoint conference of the European Commission on International Partnerships on 22 January 2021. "The study provides important information to understand whether and how organic agriculture can contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end hunger, poverty and other deprivations", explained Christina Blank from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which supports the SysCom research.

In his presentation, Dr. Gurbir Bhullar, country coordinator of SysCom India, explained: "We learned from the research in Kenya, India and Bolivia that organic yields can match those of conventional systems while they vary depending on the crop and management practices. Thus, organic systems could be managed successfully and profitably."

Organic systems improve soil fertility and re-install biodiversity in forests

Dr. Noah Adamtey, country coordinator SysCom Kenya adds: “We also found that organic systems can build up soil fertility over the long-term if managed well – and that is key to increased productivity and food security, especially for Africa.” 

Monika Schneider, coordinator of the project in Bolivia further elaborates: "It was fascinating to see that the biodiversity in the organic agroforstery system was enhanced because the system offers suitable habitats and food sources for different bird species."

Beate Huber, programme leader of SysCom and President of FiBL Europe, concluded: "Organic farming has a proven potential to contribute to transforming the food system also in low-income economies. Yet, to exploit this huge opportunity, we have to invest in research and capacity building in order to close knowledge gaps and also acknowledge, by means of fair remuneration and a supportive policy and business environment, the vital contribution farmers make to sustain public goods."

Regarding yield comparisons, Bernard Lehmann, Vice-Chairperson of the HLPE Steering Committee pointed out: "Yield comparisons between organic and conventional systems have a long tradition. Looking ahead, the question is what picture will yield comparisons give in the future, taking into account climate adaptation and lowering paths for plant protection products."

About SysCom

FiBL launched the programme "Long-term farming systems comparisons in the tropics" (SysCom) together with partner institutions in 2007 to explore how organic agriculture can also produce profitably in tropical areas and what contribution it can make to sustainable development. While cotton, soybean and wheat cultivation are being studied in India, the focus in Kenya is on vegetable and maize cultivation. In Bolivia, cocoa production in monoculture and agroforestry systems are compared. 

Agronomic, economic and ecological parameters will be observed over several years at all locations. At the same time, research is conducted together with the farmers on locally adapted technologies.


For more information:
Download Synthesis Report 
SysCom team has published several publications  
Visit FiBL website

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